Well tonight in Toronto it was a two point night for the Washington Capitals, despite all the help the help the referees tried to give the Maple Leafs. The lack of a call on Toronto when Alex Ovechkin was interfered with, hooked and basically pulled down on a breakaway in the last minute of the second period was a bad piece of officiating. However, the two penalties given to Ovechkin, especially the second holding call by an official who couldn't see the play while the ref who could didn't call any penalty was actually worse. Also, you couldn't tell from the replays that Brooks Laich did or didn't kick the puck in into the net, so since the call was a goal how was it overturned? I guess the guys in the booth had some video we didn't see. Finally since the Caps won 2-1 in regulation and ended a four game road losing streak, none of that matters, life is good. Well sort of good, since another Cap got injured tonight, Eric Fehr - that makes 9 + Brian Pothier, if your counting.
Before reviewing the Caps game and play in Toronto, a comment has to be made about the depth of the Capitals organization. With the Capitals injury situation, so far this season 30 different players have played for the Caps. Over the past two weeks, the Caps have called up numerous players from the Hershey Bears, tonight in Toronto, the Caps lineup included Kieth Aucoin, Sami Lepisto, Karl Alzner, Bryan Helmer and Sean Collins. Add to that the fact that Tyler Sloan is still on the Caps roster but is injured and you have 6 players that started the season as Hershey Bears (5 Defenseman), that haven't been around Hershey much in the last week or so. Yet Hershey beat the Hartford Wolf Pack 4-2 tonight, that was the Bears 10th straight win. The call ups of course go all the way down to and affect even the Caps ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, the Stingrays played the Charlotte Checkers and dropped the game to them 3-2. Looking at the Stingrays - Checkers score sheet, it was a hard fought game (3 fights in the first period and one fight in the second). It also doesn't look like Charlotte outplayed the Rays, the difference of the game was a power play goal by the Checkers at the tail end of a 5-3 man advantage. So the depth of the organization is without question, just well ... pretty amazing.
How does a team plagued with so many injuries win two games in a row and break a four game road losing streak? Well first they play passionate hockey for sixty minutes and focus on the basics - that's probably the biggest thing the Caps did tonight. No we're not talking about "the system" here, though that's part of it, we're talking about simplifying the game plan to enable a lot of new faces to work well together and focusing on the basics. Combine that with the passionate play, and the high general talent level of the many young players in the Caps organization and you have the fundamentals required to facilitate winning hockey. The injury replacement call ups played well tonight. The defense pairings played within themselves and there appears to be good chemistry between the pairings put on the ice tonight. The Jurcina - Alzner pairing seemed to work especially well [ed note - I guess that's pretty easy to say since they scored both goals and Alzner had a goal and an assist.] Karl Alzner was second in ice time tonight at 23: 06 only to Ovechkin. Alzner had a goal, an assist, was +2, blocked 3 shots and had 1 hit - not a bad nights work for a 20 year old rookie. Sami Lepisto played 20:37 and had 3 hits, turning in a solid night's work. In 13:29 TOI, Kieth Aucoin played well he took 1 shot, had 2 takeaways and was 56% in the face off circle. Aucoin frequently generated traffic in front of the net and at least one scoring chance for the Caps. Bryan Helmer was very solid and confident, especially on the penalty kill, and his partner Sami Lepisto looked like the prototypical, big, mobile, two way Scandinavian/European defenseman that Peerless talks about here (see his discussion of Tomas Kaberle).
As for the other Caps on the roster, nobody had a bad night. The Maple Leafs scored their only goal on the power play, as such no one on the Caps roster was +/- negative, Alexander the Great had a good night leading the team in hits (6), shots on goal (7) and attempts blocked (8) as well as PIM (4) - he worked hard during every second of the 23:17 he was on the ice, trying to create and capitalize on opportunities. Tonight could easily have been Milan Jurcina's best game so far this season. In 19:56 TOI, including 1:31 of PK, Jurcina was +2, had a goal, blocked 4 shots, and had 2 hits; also, he was NOT on the ice when Antropov scored the Leaf's only goal in the third period. Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, Fleischmann, Nylander and Kozlov all had solid outings and contributed very positively to the game. Overall, the Caps played a solid 60 minute game of two way hockey. Brent Johnson was solid in net all night long despite facing only 20 shots. It was a fun game to watch as well and not just because the Caps won in regulation.
In Philadelphia today, Navy beat Army for the 9th time in the last 10 meetings. The score was 34 -0. President Bush attended and both teams debuted new uniforms.
For Navy it'll be the EagleBank (formerly Congressional) Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington DC on December 20th (at which time the Capitals will be playing the Philadelphia Flyers in Philly). It looks like Navy will take on Wake Forest but this is apparently not definite yet.
For the Caps it's the Carolina Hurricanes at RBC Center in Raliegh, NC - tomorrow. Yep it's another of those "fun" back to back road games for the Capitals. The 'Canes are coming off a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Flyers tonight.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!